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Beauty in Sport: Celebrating Black Jockeys in Harford and Beyond opens at HCC

Beauty in Sport: Celebrating Black Jockeys in Harford County, Maryland and Beyond opened Monday at the Hays Heighe House at Harford Community College and will run through Nov. 8.

The exhibit, the second Beauty in Sport program hosted by the museum on the HCC campus, pays tribute and explores the integral role of African-Americans in the thoroughbred horse racing industry, not only as jockeys, but also as trainers and grooms.

Beauty in Sport: Celebrating Black Jockeys looks at varying perspectives and includes the portrayal of black jockeys in fine art, with a particular emphasis on the 19th century Currier & Ives lithographs. The exhibit also examines African-American jockeys in controversies, including the legend and legacy of the lawn jockey statue, as well as the decline in black jockeys in the racing industry.

While the exhibit depicts many national successful horsemen, it is augmented with a compelling local story of special interest to those with fond memories of the Havre de Grace Race Track. The exhibit features the team behind the champions with homage to local horsemen, including Eugene "Josh" Fisher, of Bel Air, groom to Saggy, the horse who beat 1948 Triple Crown winner Citation and eventually sired 1961 Kentucky Derby and Preakness champion Carry Back.

Exhibit hours are Tuesdays, 1 to 3 p.m., Fridays, 10 a.m. to noon, and Saturday, Nov. 2, 10 a.m. to noon. The Hays-Heighe House at Harford Community College is at 401 Thomas Run Road in Bel Air. For information, call 443-412-2495.

A major component of the overall exhibition is the traveling exhibit curated by Pellom McDaniels, entitled "The Prince of Jockeys: The Life of Isaac Burns Murphy." McDaniels is releasing a book of the same name and will be on the HCC campus on Oct. 24 for a curator's walk of his exhibit and reception and also for a book signing/luncheon on Oct. 25.

A former player for the Kansas City Chiefs and the Atlanta Falcons, Dr. McDaniels is faculty curator of African American Collections and an assistant professor in the Department of African American Studies at Emory University, where he specializes in sports history and black masculinity. McDaniels has curated exhibitions on a wide range of topics, including the role of African Americans in the Great World War (Kansas City and Des Moines), John Brown (Kansas City), Carter G. Woodson (Kansas City and Atlanta) and Langston Hughes (Atlanta). His is the author of "So You Want to be a PRO? A Realistic Game Plan for Kids who Want to Become a Professional Athlete" (Addax, 1999) and "My Own Harlem" (Addax, 1998).

Celebrating Black Jockeys was inspired by a painting that now hangs in the Hays-Heighe House, "Yorkville Belle, Isaac Murphy Up," which was painted by American artist Gean Smith in 1892 after Murphy's victory at Monmouth Park in New Jersey. The painting was purchased with money donated by the former president of Harford Community College, Jim LaCalle, and his wife, Lynne. Murphy, a three-time Kentucky Derby winning rider, is considered one of the greatest jockeys of all time. He was among the first inducted into the National Racing Hall of Fame in 1955.

Beauty in Sport: Celebrating Black Jockeys is curated by Hays-House Coordinator Iris Barnes and student intern Madison Griffits.

In conjunction with Monday's opening, two receptions were held where Stuart Hudgins discussed his collection of early motion photography and talked about how these photographs captured the important contributions made by African-American jockeys and trainers. Hudgins is a multi-media artist, film archivist and resource curator, who has worked as an editorial illustrator for The Baltimore Sun and as artist in residence at several schools and recreation centers in Baltimore.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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